New liquor regulations introduce bring your own wine option, extend off sales hours

The Yukon government has updated the territory’s liquor regulations to get rid of some archaic requirements and to bring the regulations in line with other jurisdictions.

The Yukon government has updated the territory’s liquor regulations to get rid of some archaic requirements and to bring the regulations in line with other jurisdictions.

Some of the changes also allow alcohol to flow a little more freely in the territory.

Notably, restaurants will now be able to offer a bring-your-own-wine service, and off-sales can now stay open until 2 a.m. instead of midnight.

Yukon Liquor Corporation president Matt King said Yukon’s hospitality industry asked for the changes.

“I think these changes … support the small businesses,” he said. “It’ll make it easier for businesses to operate.”

Under the new rules, restaurant and bar hours could change slightly. Most licensees can now serve liquor from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., while they were previously restricted to a 14-hour period within those hours. They will also be able to stay open for an hour after last call, up from 30 minutes, meaning bars can now stay open until 3 a.m.

Licensees can also now request to extend their hours for special events. For instance, if a World Cup soccer match is playing at 3 a.m., bars can ask the liquor board to let them stay open during that time, though they won’t be allowed to serve alcohol.

A number of the changes revolve around licensing and fees. For instance, licensees in good standing will now only have to renew their licenses every two years, instead of annually.

“This is something that the licensees brought up and requested,” King said.

Manufacturers like Yukon Brewing will also be allowed to serve free liquor samples without prior approval from the board, as long as they’re licensed as manufacturers.

The liquor corporation has also simplified its licence fee structure. Until now, King said, there were 68 different fee levels for different licensee types, including restaurants, bars, clubs, sports stadiums and aircraft. Each of those categories was broken down into different sub-groups based on occupancy. But now, that number has been reduced to 31.

The corporation will also develop a new advertising policy for alcohol. Previously, all advertisements had to be individually pre-approved by the president. But King said that has become “pretty untenable” with the advent of social media and new avenues for advertising. Now, licensees will just have a set of guidelines to follow on their own, and the board will get involved if complaints are made.

Some of the other changes relate to antiquated requirements that are now being repealed. Those include a provision that laid out the types of containers to be used to serve alcohol, like clear glass or polycarbonate plastic, and another that allowed the liquor corporation president to dictate the “suitable fixtures and furniture” licensees must use to decorate their establishments.

Another requirement for draft beer to be kept between 3.3 and 5.5 degrees Celsius has also been lifted, as has one that required licensees to display every type of liquor available for sale at the bar.

“There’s a number of sections here that don’t necessarily make sense,” King said.

Previously, homemade liquor served at an event could only be produced by a family member of the event organizer, and could only be taken home by the person who brought it. Also, sports stadiums were only allowed to sell two cups of beer or cider to a person in a single sale. Those provisions are also being scrapped.

“I think the reality is that when you’re at a sports stadium, people might purchase more than two cups of cider or beer to bring back to their team,” King said.

One final change will allow manufacturers’ agents to provide information and training directly to liquor store personnel about their products. That had previously been forbidden, to prevent manufacturers from pushing to have their liquor featured more prominently in stores.

But King said that made it difficult for personnel to learn about the products so they could, in turn, help customers make choices.

He said there will still be checks in place to ensure that manufacturers aren’t pressuring staff for special treatment.

The new regulations are now in effect. King said the liquor board is meeting this month to finalize the accompanying policy, including advertising guidelines.

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